I have taken a couple months off from writing/blogging for the Briefcase and Open and Obvious? to consider the vast volume of rants and other written communication via social network, legitimate media outlets or political administrations that have come our way since November 2016. During this time AI continues to take over human life and the legal profession, Bull remains on network television, some ABA resolution aimed at decreasing the number of law schools failed, private information has been hacked and we have a lot of judicial vacancies. In considering all of this fear-mongering, I have reached a couple of conclusions I wanted to share with you in a peaceful and non-provoking way. First, the OCBA is a great professional organization and worthy of your involvement. Next, now as much as ever, words have meaning and accuracy and the proper use of words should not be overlooked, especially by professionals.
As our state legislature is back in session and addressing again how Judges are selected, the OCBA has created and distributed a PowerPoint for the use of its members in educating local civic groups on the function of the Judicial Nominating Commission (“JNC”). This PowerPoint is exceptional and you can tell that much time and effort was put into its production. I am not writing here to argue that we have the best and brightest judiciary, after all they are lawyers just like the rest of the Bar with different levels of education, experience and individual demeanor. Nor am I saying this to be critical of our judiciary or our selection process, in fact to the contrary, I am a proponent that our selection system is as good as any. I encourage all of you to learn as much as you can about the JNC so that you can spread the word among your non-lawyer friends and family that our judicial selection system could be much worse if the legislature makes some of the proposed changes. Simply by looking at other states where judges are solely political appointments or solely the result of an election process, we can see the good and bad of the other methods of judicial selection. Our system is a bit of a hybrid but gets us where we need to be with a fair and unbiased bench. OCBA in supporting this educational effort concerning the JNC is playing a significant part in educating voters. Please educate yourself and support this effort.
The OCBA is again involved in the Ask A Lawyer program, seeking volunteers for the April 27th OETA session. Ask A Lawyer has been a staple of the Oklahoma Bar Association and the OCBA’s efforts to assist Oklahomans with legal issues on or around Law Day. You can be a lawyer volunteer answering caller’s questions regarding a wide range of legal issues. This event provides an excellent service to the citizens of the State of Oklahoma and deserves your support.
Finally, the OCBA’s Bench and Bar CLE scheduled for March 31st at Sequoyah State Lodge near Fort Gibson puts its members in an education and social setting to learn from and interact with District Court Judges, Federal Judges and State Appellate Justices. You cannot ask for a better opportunity to get to know the lawyers you are working with (and against) and the judges you are appearing before. This type of social interaction in our profession is a must for us to be a successful Bar. We, as a profession, tend to rely on the adversarial model to solve everything. In fact, as most of you know, the majority of litigated cases settle without trial and most disputes are resolved without a Court hearing. Many times this simply takes picking up the phone and talking to opposing counsel, which is much easier to do if you have met face to face and have a relationship. The same goes with appearing before the bench. Typically a lawyer’s reputation, skills and tactics are presented to the Court before their in person introduction, by the written work product that a judge reviews before a hearing. A lawyer’s best trait might be to be known as ethical and trustworthy. The ability to properly use the English language in case submission is also a nice skill. This is something that must be maintained in your written and spoken work. Do yourself a favor and get to know the bench you practice before, don’t rely on spellcheck and always proofread.
In these tumultuous times, littered with 144 character rants, it is satisfying to know that the association that we voluntarily joined is doing great. The current OCBA leadership, Judge Barbara Swinton, and the future leadership, David Cheek, put our profession first. Take advantage of opportunities provided by the OCBA, and most of all, let your non-lawyer friends, relatives and neighbors know that we are a proud and ethical profession. Next month we will get back to something topical for your practice like jury selection. I thought this topic would be better than me filling the internet with art. But for now, let’s make sure we open the envelope with the real winner’s names before we start congratulating ourselves on a job well done.
Byline: Michael W. Brewer is an attorney, founder, and partner of Hiltgen & Brewer, PC in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. To contact Mike, email firstname.lastname@example.org, call (405) 605-9000 or tweet him at @attymikeb. For more information, please visit www.hbokc.law.